Miniature wargame fans have more celebrity mascots now than ever before – Netflix thriller stars Henry Cavill and Rahul Kohli publicly profess their love for Warhammer on the regular. But they weren’t the first screen actors to ‘come out’ as tabletop wargamers – that honor goes to Star Wars and Hammer Horror legend Peter Cushing.
That’s right, in 1956 – 21 years before he ordered the peaceful planet of Alderaan destroyed with a giant laser as Grand Moff Tarkin – the then 43-year-old Cushing invited a documentary crew to his home in Kensington, London, to watch him paint soldiers and fight a miniature wargame battle on the living room rug. It’s utterly, utterly heart-warming.
How do we know this? Because the snappy, two-minute segment survives online (thanks to British Pathé) and you can watch it below.
It’s a rare, full-color snapshot of what the wargaming hobby looked like nearly 70 years ago, when almost none of today’s big names existed – the first edition of Warhammer wouldn’t launch for another 27 years, and Warhammer 40k not for 31 years.
Cushing reportedly played his battles “solemnly and conscientiously” using the simple rules in H.G. Wells’ 1913 book Little Wars – one of the first publicly available miniature wargame rulesets.
As the spectacularly British voiceover explains, Cushing was “an enthusiastic member of the Model Soldier Society” who “collects, makes, and acts as general to an army over 5,000 strong”.
Despite Cushing’s career in horror and famous role in Star Wars, there are no horror wargames, fantasy or Star Wars Shatterpoint sci-fi figures involved here – his collection was “drawn from every period of military history”, and “the result of meticulous research into uniforms and military techniques”.
We’re also way before the era of widely available, hobby-focused miniatures cast in metal here, let alone plastic or resin; while some of Cushing’s large collection may have been metal, the clip explains that many of his models are made of “compressed drawing paper”.
It’s a far cry from today’s neat sprues, 3D printers, and high-tech paints for miniatures – when superstar fan of Warhammer 40k Henry Cavill winds down from a shoot by building some nice, plastic Adeptus Custodes models, he has it easy by comparison.
Cushing died of cancer in 1994, aged 81, after acting in at least 100 movies and receiving the OBE – one of the most prestigious awards given by the British government to prominent public figures. He reportedly maintained his love of various nerdy tabletop hobbies (also including building model train sets and model theaters) throughout his life.
As the video’s narration neatly says: Cushing’s unapologetically nerdy hobbies, paired with some of the most memorable movie performances of the 20th century, provide “[proof], if we needed proof, that playing soldiers is one game we never grow tired of”. We doubt, however, whether Cushing would have approved of the toys available of him:
If you’re a horror fan who loves Peter Cushing best as Dr. Frankenstein, Van Helsing, or one of his many other terrifying guises, chances are you’ll get a kick out of our guides to the best horror comics, the best horror board games, and the best horror tabletop RPGs around.
Alternatively, if the galaxy far, far away is more your bag, check out the best Star Wars board games – or you can get the latest news in the Star Wars section of our sister site, The Digital Fix, including educated estimations about the Ahsoka season 2 release date and The Bad Batch season 3 release date.